Opener Rohit Sharma (161 off 231 balls) decimated the England bowling attack with his fluent batsmanship, but the touring team pulled things back twice on the opening day of the second Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here. Thanks to Rohit’s wonderful display with the willow, India stood at 300 for six in 88 overs at stumps on Saturday. The 33-year-old treated the 12,000-strong Chepauk crowd to some sumptuous strokemaking during his innings, which was laced with 18 fours and two maximums.
While Day One undoubtedly belonged to ‘Hitman’ Rohit, England clawed its way back into the contest by scalping successive wickets on two occasions. At close of play, wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant (33 batting off 56 balls) and debutant Axar Patel (5 batting off 7 balls) remained unbeaten at the crease.
Spinners Jack Leach (2 for 78) and Moeen Ali (2 for 112) were the wreckers-in-chief for the visitor, bagging two wickets apiece. Rohit’s batting blockbuster can be dissected into two parts - positive intent before Lunch and patience post it. At the end of an eventful opening session, India had 106 runs on the board for the loss of three wickets. As many as 80 of those came from the blade of Rohit, who found the sweet spot time and again. Despite the right hander’s early onslaught, India didn’t hold the aces heading into the first breather. The home team was dealt a body blow in just the second over of the match, losing Shubman Gill for nought.
The opening batsman was caught plumb in front of the wicket by pacer Olly Stone after failing to offer a shot to an in-swinging delivery. Following his dismissal, in came the industrious Cheteshwar Pujara (21 off 58 balls), who was peppered with short stuff. The India No.3 somehow weathered Stone’s storm, but his stay came to an end in the 21st over.
Left-arm spinner Leach induced the outside edge off Pujara’s bat, with Ben Stokes taking the catch at first slip. That brought to a close an 85-run association for the second wicket. England ended the pre-Lunch session on a high by sending captain Virat Kohli back to the home dressing room in the next over.
Offie Moeen made sure the India skipper didn’t disturb the scoreboard by castling his stumps with a delivery that turned back in sharply. Back from the 40-minute break, Rohit adopted a careful approach alongside Ajinkya Rahane, who was India’s second-highest scorer with 67 runs off 149 balls. The vice-captain’s knock included nine shots to the fence.
Rohit and Rahane shared a 162-run fourth-wicket alliance, a partnership which downed the morale of the away side. In the process, the former completed his seventh Test century off 130 balls and first against England. The senior pro played a sweep towards fine-leg for two runs to achieve the milestone.
Rohit built on the base and got past 150, but eventually fell to Leach, who forced him to pick the fielder at deep square-leg. Previously finding himself in the middle of a DRS gaffe, Rahane followed Rohit to the pavilion after exposing his stumps against Moeen. In that mini period, India went from 248 for three to 249 for five.
In at No.7, home-grown player Ravichandran Ashwin (13 off 19 balls) failed to make a substantial contribution in front of his home fans. Meanwhile, Pant hit five fours and a maximum to up the ante at the fag end of the day.
Brief scores: India (1st innings) 300 for 6 in 88 overs (R Sharma 161, A Rahane 67, J Leach 2/78) vs England